Welcome back to a university that is changing for the better

This is an institution driven to discover - in the classroom, the laboratory, the field and the community.

Welcome back to the University of Minnesota and a special welcome to those of you here on campus for the first time!

We’ve made a great deal of progress over the summer in bringing our strategic positioning plans to life – and with that, to continue our journey towards becoming one of the best public research and educational universities in the world.

On July 1, three new colleges debuted on campus: the College of Design, the College of Education and Human Development, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. Building these new academic structures has required a lot of work, patience, and faith on the part of dedicated staff and faculty.

Ultimately, I’m confident these new academic units are bringing together the people and the resources needed to make them truly world-class.

CDes, led by former College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Dean Tom Fisher, encompasses a wide array of design disciplines from graphic design, apparel design, and interior design to architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. Exciting plans are now under way to build on interdisciplinary programs and centers in sustainable building, geographic information systems and product design, among other areas.

The expanded CEHD has added the best of what was offered through the former General College and the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Family Social Science and School of Social Work to its six existing academic departments. The new college will be led by a nationally recognized education leader, Darlyne Bailey, who will take the reins Oct. 1.

And the new CFANS has integrated the programs of the former College of Natural Resources; College of Agricultural, Environmental, and Food Science; and the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition. CFANS will afford strengthened programs in key areas such as sustainable energy, food and human health, and environmental sciences, policy and management.

Beyond these important collegiate changes, we’re in the process of creating a new systemwide Institute on the Environment that will coordinate the University’s impressive environmental expertise across all of our campuses and our outreach and research locations. In addition to providing more opportunities for students, bringing the University’s dispersed environmental experts together will, I believe, spur greater discoveries and solutions to complex environmental challenges such as creating renewable energy sources and tackling global climate change.

We’re launching a writing initiative with the goal of making writing a central element of every student’s education. This initiative, which will be offered to students beginning in the fall of 2007, has the potential to be a national model for the study and practice of writing – and will better prepare our graduates for life after college.

Diversity and educational access remain key elements in our work to “Transform the University.” This summer we hired Nancy “Rusty” Barceló as the University’s first vice president and vice provost for equity and diversity, a systemwide position that will help ensure that diversity remains, in her words, “a purposeful thread that runs throughout everything we do,” rather than an add-on or afterthought.

That work will be helped by programs such as the Founders Opportunity Scholarship, which was inaugurated two years ago and, when fully implemented, will provide grant aid to cover tuition and required fees for low- and moderate-income students from Minnesota who receive federal Pell Grants.

To improve the University’s already strong international profile, we’ve appointed two accomplished academics, Jim Perry in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Allen Isaacman in African History, to leadership roles in this area.

Together they’ll work to prepare globally engaged graduates throughout the University system, to facilitate the needs of international students and to encourage greater levels of international academic exchange.

Finally, we’re also working to improve every facet of our administrative and service functions, including how we manage our student unions; provide academic and career counseling; sell tickets to University cultural and athletic events; conserve energy; orient new University employees; and provide Facilities Management services to the University community.

The University of Minnesota is judged primarily by the quality of its education, research and outreach programs, but I strongly believe we cannot build on those elements without serious attention to our management and use of resources.

So, welcome back to the University. This is an institution that is driven to discover – in the classroom, the laboratory, the field and the community. In your everyday work and in your long-term pursuits, you – the students, faculty and staff of this great institution – are at the heart of these efforts to “Transform the U,” and I hope you’ll take them on with new energy and high aspirations.

Bob Bruininks is the University president. Please send comments to [email protected]